NIU freshman class analyzed

By Wendy Arquilla and Kevin Lyons

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a five-part series on NIU freshmen. A comprehensive look at our young people presents a microcosm of our society and where it’s going. The stories have been compiled largely from results of a cooperative institutional research program survey and interviews. Today’s piece focuses on freshmen as a whole.

They have been called the most rambunctious class in the past few years by NIU’s Judicial Office. Who are they?

They are the 1992-1993 freshmen class.

Last semester, the Judicial Office reported that 339 out of 560 offenses committed last semester were committed by freshmen. The spring semester is going in the same direction.

“Most of the Judicial Office’s offenses come from the residence halls, were most freshman live,” said Jenine Povlsen, assistant Judicial officer. “This spring most of our cases involve freshmen.”

Residence hall life is more prevalent for NIU freshmen as about 95 percent of them live in residence halls compared to about 81 percent nationally.

Povlsen said the predominant offenses have been party atmosphere, underage consumption and possession of alcohol, noise and disruptive behavior and some cases of harassment.

“The freshman experience is to party too much first semester, settle down a bit second semester and then try to find their niche at NIU,” said Patty Hall, director of Stevenson Towers South.

“The biggest problem I’ve had this year is people not taking responsibility for offenses they have committed, such as floor damage,” Hall said. She also said problems with freshmen run in cycles from year to year.

The problems caused by the freshman class aren’t the only thing that makes this class unique. Through an annual survey all university freshmen take, we have learned some of their views are unique as well in comparison to the rest of the country.

In terms of ideology and the way they spend their time, this year’s class is not much different than those of the past five years. Roughly 2,700 students participated in the last survey.

National news was made when results of the survey were known. One fact specifically was scrutinized by the nation, that of a 9 percent jump upward in students concerned with promoting racial understanding.

Nationally, 42 percent of college freshmen agreed that promotion of racial understanding was important. NIU freshmen topped the national figure with 44 percent of the respondents agreeing with the objective.

Those aren’t the only opinions they hold. In general, they feel strongly about family, being able to achieve in their chosen profession and participating in their communities to name a few, based on results from the survey taken early last fall.

This freshmen class has very strong beliefs as well. Some of the survey results reflect the attitude that premarital sex is okay, although homosexuality is not, AIDS should be controlled by mandatory testing and the wealthy should pay more taxes.

Freshmen reporting families with divorced or separated parents have been on the rise for the past several years, totalling about 26 percent.

Most students, 65 percent, rated themselves in the top 10 percent in terms of academic ability, but only about 17 percent reported a grade point average in the “B” range.

They were a little more reluctant to rate themselves highly in terms of emotional health—59 percent, which was pretty much in line with national figures. It’s interesting to note that women rated themselves more than 10 percent higher than men in this area.

About 69 percent indicated that NIU was their first choice in colleges, most of whom said that the highest degree they anticipate early in their academic career is a master’s degree.

NIU freshmen also fall slightly short of the national average in spending time studying.